Chinese Family Life

My Crazy Chinese Mother-In-Law

my crazy chinese mother-in-lawBehind every couple, there’s the crazy Chinese mother-in-law

Recently Timo at Crazy Chinese Family once again shared a story of his mother-in-law and My Hong Kong Husband shared how her first week with the Momzilla went. I even left a comment saying how my MIL is very reasonable and there haven’t been that many disagreements between us. But today it’s time to share a story of my very own crazy Chinese mother-in-law!

First just to be clear, I know Chinese mothers use cooking/cleaning/washing clothes for showing their love, instead of just saying I love you. But that doesn’t mean I sometimes just so hope she would rather say those words.

Since we have been living in our own at the old family house, my husband’s parents occasionally bring us soup, fruits or even meat. Once the fridge has been moved from one place to another and yesterday one of our cats was accidentally closed inside our bedroom for hours. Bringing food and (in their opinion) improving our livelihoods is their way of taking care of us and as we still have our own space, I didn’t think twice about it.

Today was something completely different! I came home, opened the fridge and saw paprikas, tomatoes and cucumber inside. I checked the freezer and there was both beef and pork. I though, ok, if this is how Chinese parents tell their kids they love them, I should just be grateful and say thank you.

But then my mother-in-law comes in with our bedding! When did she took those out and washed them? I took the bedding from her hands and tell her I will put them on later today, as I had other things to do at the moment. In reality I just wanted to do that alone by my self, not while she was watching me. She refused and pretty much kicked me out of my own bedroom!

Then I noticed the curtains she had made for the bedroom! I had told her, that I have a certain taste in decoration and will buy curtains when I find suitable ones. Now she went ahead and did those her self from old curtain fabrics.

When she left, she told me not to tell my husband that she has been at our home. She knows her son doesn’t appreciate all of this. But how could Alan ever think those curtains were my idea!

I don’t know if this all sounds like a loving mother to more traditional Chinese kids, but me and my husband value our privacy and our own space dearly. We are the ones that should decide when to wash our bedding, what curtains to buy and if we let our cats sleep in the bed or not.

From my mother-in-law’s point of view she is probably just being the mother of the year, but from my point of view this all tells that I’m not capable of taking care of my own household! As a contrast when my own mother was staying here in May, she came in and said to me “Sara, just tell me if there is something I can help with, I don’t want to intrude in your own home”. Guess which kind of parenting I feel more comfortable with?

What do you think? Is it too much to ask that our home would look the same when I leave the house and when I come back? I don’t really like these surprises when you never know what you’re going to see in your own home after a long day of work or school.

You might ask what my husband recommends us to do, well, he said we should change the locks!


  • chinaelevatorstories

    Seems like a common mother-in-law problem. It’s probably more common with Chinese mother-in-laws, but even in Europe you can find MILs who “help out” a bit too much. It can be nice up unto a certain degree (e.g. if you’re pregnant and don’t have to cook after coming back home late in the evening from work), but there has to be some kind of balance. This reminds me of a blog written by an American woman married to an Italian guy. Her mother-in-law once washed her g-strings and ironed them!

    Changing locks is a good idea, but maybe she’d go so far as to call a guy who can unlock doors from the outside.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Oh my! My MIL has washed our clothes several times, but luckily she doesn’t iron our underwear! Right now she doesn’t get to wash our clothes, but if I’m not in front of the washing machine the second it’s ready, she is there putting clothes up to dry before I am.

    We decided to once again talk it out with the parents and see if they could understand our point of view as well. It haven’t helped so far, but maybe just maybe it will this time :) If not, then we need to think other ways to set limits.

  • Teya

    Know that she will want to help and assign her tasks. Explain your point of view while also saying you understand hers. Let go. She means well (continuously repeat). My Chinese MIL is here and I have asked her to help me do some knitting and embroidery (things I will like and keep her busy).

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    That is a good idea, perhaps I could find something she enjoys and she could help us with. That way she would be happy as she can help us, but also she wouldn’t be filling our fridge with things we don’t have enough time to eat before they are dated.

  • R Zhao

    Changing locks is a wee bit passive aggressive. . . Though he was probably joking–right??? I recommend being direct and setting some boundaries. You and Alan must take a united front on this and stick to what ever rules you set about your privacy. This might be really difficult.

    I HIGHLY recommend you do this before you have kids, because it will only get much more complicated then. My M-I-L was great about staying out of our hair and not trying to push her ways/views on me. . . until her grandson was born.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Haha, actually my husband wasn’t joking. He has more disagreement with them than I do. But instead we decided to talk to them once more and try our best to explain our point of view to them. Lets see how that goes.

    That is absolutely the reason we want to do this now before the kids come!

    Imarriedachinese Reply:

    Massively second that, and good luck setting any boundaries… Especially once you had kids, there is no escape then.

  • Maria

    I’m experiencing the same thing right now. Food always gets put in the fridge and I rarely get a chance to practice my cooking. It seems as though my FIL is actually similar to my MIL; he always comes and insists we change things in the house even though we don’t want it changed. He cuts our grass and I tell my husband to do it himself but he insists it’s fine to let them help out. I told him I would cut it next time! My husband also said when we have kids, his mother will quit her job and watch them full-time. I told him that won’t happen unless I’m working and ask for the help. Very overbearing, even when you tell them it’s too much.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I can imagine my MIL to say the same thing when we have a kid, she doesn’t even have a job now so she could be here 24/7 right away. She is a person that rarely does anything for her self, always trying to help others, no matter if others want the help or not. I want her to understand that by not letting her help us that much, we want to become more independent so we are more ready to be parents when the time comes.

  • Simon

    Well, I think the LOVE is the same anywhere in this world, people just use different ways to love. It’s a typical Chinese mother’s way, but not fit new generation even in China. It’s crazy but understandable.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    My husband has way more disagreements with his parents than I do, as he is their son he doesn’t need to be that polite. The generation gab really is huge, the society is completely different now than when the parents were in our age.

  • Teresa

    Hi Sara,
    My name is Teresa and I have been reading your wonderfull blog for a year, more or less when I started trying to learn Mandarim.
    About the issue you brought us today I really understand your point of view.
    Here in Portugal, specially in the countryside, after marrying the son/daughter, many started to ‘date’ his/her mother while setting – firmly – the limits.
    This is the ‘narrow path’ but usually at the end of the process your mother-in-law turns out a powerfull ally.
    Love firmly,
    Good luck

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi Teresa, nice to get your comment :)

    Luckily we will most probably still have years before having a family of our own, so we have time to set these limits and boundaries first. This all is very different from the Finnish culture where we tend to think “the family relationships are the better the farer away you live from them” ;)


    if our MILs think the same, talk might be pointless. I think part of the problem is that your new home is their old one, so they can still see your husband as their little boy living with them. My MIL at her territory will do everything like I didn’t have hands and ‘No’ is not an option, but since she’s in the place we rent out and we call it our territory she doesn’t dare to do things. Another thing is I think you’re too polite to her – I made that mistake. When I asked her that I will do it and try to be super nice she just refused and did what she thought is OK, but since I was like ‘enough is enough’ lets say she tries to swipe the floor I pop out with shanghainese ‘no, stop’ and just take the broom for her. I don’t know if that would work for your MIL but as long as I didn’t want to argue with her it ended up her doing things. Now I’m like ‘leave that thing, you have no power here’ she just nicely sit on the couch and watch babies on YouTube ;) hopefully some advice here can help you Sara :)
    Oh I just reminded myself what can also be the reason – you are married in the perfect age to give her a grandchild. Maybe she does that so you, in her mind, don’t damage your body, get the best food they pick etc. so you can stay as healthy as possible. Mine wants a grandchild so much she even let me win when we play cards and believe me – she never done that before, the only winner could be Sing. anyway – let us know if something changes :) keep my fingers crossed and thank you for mentioning my blog! ^^

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    We have tried to talk to the parents several times and will try again too, haven’t really seen anything change though after these talks ;)

    You are right, I think it matters a lot that this is their old home, they feel like home here as well. Somehow we need to tell them that it’s our home now and me and my husband will decide what happens inside these walls. For example it’s our decision if we let the cats sleep on the bed with us, not theirs.

    On that day I tried to be not too polite, trying to get her out of the bedroom, but in the end she won! And I felt really bad about that situation.

    Oh yes the grandchildren, I hope my sister-in-law will have a kid first. I’ve told everyone that I want to graduate from master’s first and not to be too eager right now ;)

  • Timo

    As the others said, basic MIL xD
    I cant really say what to do but it is important not to be too drastic, otherwise you may earn the wrath of the in-laws. Somehow you will need to find a way how to “confront” your MIL to do a bit less. In my humble experience this worked the best by saying the should watch out more for her health and that we can do it better due to our younger age etc.
    Anyways, your in-laws are looking forward to a grandchild and will do anything to make your life easier which sometimes results that they make your life actually harder but I believe you will do just fine :)

    Now I have to hope that my own parents will proof different as we will move soon to Germany and live just two floors above them…

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    My in-laws are young, not even 50 yet, so they think they can do everything better than us ;) You know, “mom knows the best”. But the society has changed a lot since they were young and there are huge generation gaps between parents and children in todays China.

    I secretly hope that my sister-in-law would have a baby first so the parents would have their hands full :)

    Timo Reply:

    My mother-in-law is herself just 51 now but still likes to hear when we say that she should rest a bit more (even though she is much more sporty/ athletic than my wife). But then again she is always shocked how much my own parents are still doing. For example all the basic renovation work I was doing together with my father who is turning 73 this year and not to forget that during our cottage trips he is doign bicycle tours with me with 60km of lenght and more :)

  • Alva

    Sara, I suggest a break here. Instead, think about this: You live in a family owned house (and you are lucky for that, you have a big house, power to paint, no deposits, and if rent, is much lower-don’t put or change locks that woudn’t be nice), before that you lived with them and they barely knew you (saved money, you had cats in their home, probably no much housework..again sounds great), she puts food in your fridge (…saving time and money for you both, how nice), you are a student and from my experience in China students have more free time than anyone working in an office (and she still supports). Think as her for a while before saying (or writing) something lie this. Our parents, and the parents of our husbands, are not here forever. Deep breath.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I’m very grateful of how warmly they accepted me as their daughter-in-law, and how they have helped us in many different ways. But still in order for me and my husband to be happy, and to keep peace in the family, we need to have privacy and boundaries. One of the reasons we moved to almost next door, is that the parents didn’t want us to move at all. From our point of view it’s a compromise and have no plans to move further away from them.

    Alva Reply:

    I know Sara but before writing something is better to sleep it. I can’t imagine how I would feel if one day my Mother in law writes or talks in a radio or tv station about her “crazy spanish daughter in law” and complains to not easy but my only advice is to sleep it and fix it after a break, without social media till the new perspective arrives. This would hurt her.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for your opinion Alva, I can totally understand where you come from. I do think over all the topics I write on this blog before posting and like that through this post others have shared their stories as well.

  • Robin Deng

    does your husband’s family own the place you’re staying? if they do, they think it’s their house so they do whatever they want to it. If they don’t, they still think it’s their house because their son lives there. No privacy in China. I recommend you to move to a different place, or be very clear with your personal boundaries. (but expect a ton of misunderstanding)

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Yes, they own the house. It was a compromise to move there as we wanted our own place and the parents didn’t want us to move, so we decided to move to the old house that is almost next door. We don’t mind living near them and like the village, but like you said, need to set some clear boundaries for the future.

  • Charlotte

    Thanks for putting a smile on my face at the end of a long day! Read your email right before I went to bed and just wanted to post that you’re totally right about her seeing this as nothing wrong.
    My MIL is always comparing her and FIL to their daughters’ inlaws (hubby has an older and younger sis) and in their eye’s, I’ve got it made when it comes to inlaws. LOVE the curtain story! Happened to me last summer. I didn’t drop everything and run out to buy fabric for a small partition to put up between the dining and living rooms (to block them off for when we turn on the AC)…two days later she had not only gone and bought it, but sewed it as well. Then it became my problem to figure out how to hang it.
    I’m not sure about your situation, but since my inlaws helped my husband buy his first house a decade ago (and then we got to keep the money from selling it…I really wanted to pay them back, but I was the odd person out in that discussion), we would never hear the end of changing the locks because it’s partially their house, too. What’s yours in their’s and what’s theirs is yours…I still don’t fully embrace that concept; probably never will. In the mean time, keep a smile on your face and enjoy all the blog fodder this gives you. I could write a series of books with what all’s in my head ;)

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    You should write that book Charlotte! ;)

    Our house is also owned by my parents-in-law, so technically it’s their house and they used to live there for years. One of the reasons we decided to move there was to have a compromise. We wanted to live on our own, but the parents didn’t want us to move out. The middle ground was to move to the old house almost next door.

    I know it’s hard for them to accept that we want a different kind of life than they perhaps hoped for their son. But in order to keep peace in the family in the long term, me and my hubby do need our space and privacy. Especially later when we have kids.

    We decided to go talk to them together when my husband comes back from a business trip :)

  • Teresa

    Hi Sara,
    Thank you for your reply. In the end of the day I think it’s all about cultural differences and not ‘getting lost in translation’.
    Here in Portugal, parents and other close relatives tends to be a bit too intrusive, although not as much as in China. But in other hand if a mother made the comment your’s did (“just tell me if there is something I can help with”) would be thought as a strong sign of detachment. And will cause deep arguments.
    Mothers are though to help while we disagree with everything, but get huge satisfaction for the help.
    I know that only a portuguese or a latino would understand.
    Just another example, in Israel (where I lived for 7 years) I saw very different styles of parenthood according to their origin. But in the end everyone

  • Teresa

    Hi Sara,
    Thank you for your reply. In the end of the day I think it’s all about cultural differences and not ‘getting lost in translation’.
    Here in Portugal, parents and other close relatives tends to be a bit too intrusive, although not as much as in China. But in other hand if a mother made the comment your’s did (“just tell me if there is something I can help with”) would be thought as a strong sign of detachment. And will cause deep arguments.
    Mothers are though to help while we disagree with everything, but get huge satisfaction for the help.
    I know that only a portuguese or a latino would understand.

    Just another example, in Israel (where I lived for 7 years) I saw very different styles of parenthood according to their origin. But in the end parents find their way to pass the boundaries.
    This is just to show you they just want to help, and people act as they are, according to their beliefs and tradiitions.
    So, just take a deep breath and set – firmly – your boundaries. Explain your MIL your culture as a background for the things that annoy you most, and let her do others things you can consent with.
    Be firm but in a kind way. Everything will be ok.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Very interesting to hear how the family dynamics work in different cultures. Inside Europe there are huge cultural differences between the North and the South, between countries as well. Just like you wrote, my Finnish mom would be seen as uncaring in Portugal.

    Thank you for your encouragement. We will have many years, decades even, together with our in-laws, I can’t expect things to find their course in just over a year. It all takes time.

  • jon9521

    We had the same experience while living there. Fortunately our stay was brief. We now live a 10 hour flight away. In my opinion it is the only way you will ever have that privacy. If you end up having children then it will intensify even more. Expect to be trained in the Chinese arts of motherhood. If you cannot move abroad maybe you might consider another city..

  • jon9521

    Try living in a different city or country that is likely the only way you will free yourself of this issue. It worked for us. It is only likely to intensify once you have children.

    Kaiser Reply:

    Straight up!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    You are most probably right, I think it’s will greatly intensify when we have kids. As I’m still going to be a student for the next two years, we have at least that time to consider all the options.

  • Kaiser


    Kaiser Reply:

    我老婆说我犯了语法错误。 应该说,你有孩子以后,你的岳母会更管你。

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    岳母是老婆的妈妈 :) 老公的妈妈是婆婆。

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:


  • SOS

    On a different note (marrying into a Chinese family) how do you deal with a very superstitious MIL & a very opinionated SIL? Theres an aguement in many details of our wedding that its taking away the whole good experience of putting together a wedding from me & my fiance.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    What does your fiance think about all of this? He should be the middle man between you and his family, and I think what he does is quite crucial to the final outcome.

    I would first think of the main things that are most important for you and making sure that those elements are in your wedding. At the same time you should think it from the MIL’s point of you and see what are most important for her and the family. Which details clashes the most? Could both make compromises on things that aren’t in the top 5 of importance?

  • lazynaming

    hello, ms. jaaksola. is it too late to comment to this article?

    I am a chinese and I have to say that I don’t appreciate this at all either, yes my mother does exactly as the same, even though she has no taste of aesthetics she still try to buy clothes (practical but very ugly ones!) for me, regardless I need them or not.

    i don’t think it is a cultural differences problem since this point of view is too vain, it is quite a problem for people from west to understand, but the fact is that the minds of average chinese parents (age 50+) have not caught up with time, china went through a modernisation in 30 years that has taken the west more than 100 years, we lack a transition period of thinking. however, most chinese parents still spiritually live in old china and their kids grown up in a rather modern society, there is a gap between children and parents (especially for children born after 1990). the problem is that many parents are too old to learn that the world has changed, people have changed, even though they worked so hard to change them, but children did not go through those harsh times (post WW2, cold war etc), we do occasionally have the same difficulty to understand their actions just like you, however the older the people the more stubborn they become, then we experience domestic conflicts. it takes time, try make your husband talk to them and persuade them to respect your piracy.

    lazynaming Reply:

    sorry, not piracy, piracy. what was i thinking…

    lazynaming Reply:


  • Paul C

    Don’t be fooled, it’s not about help or love, it’s about control. Put your foot down, put up with the tantrum for a few days/weeks then things will settle down. Believe me, it’s the only way. I’ve had it all from FIL opening all the post to read our bank accounts to MIL washing MY underwear … by hand ! :-(

  • William

    Your story sounds very familiar to me! I’m American and I met my Chinese wife here. Six months after we were married and living in America, my Chinese in-laws came from Beijing to America to visit us. They immediately took over the kitchen and started doing 100% of the cooking. Also, they also acted as if the house was theirs, not ours. (It wasn’t. My wife and I bought it, with no help from the in-laws.) Growing up in America, where property ownership is recognized and respected (even between children and parents), I was astounded.
    As I best understand, this is simply the way things are done in Chinese culture. There is no privacy and there are no limits, when it involves a child and his/her parents. Someone in the Comments below said it best: what’s yours is ours, what’s ours is yours.
    I could go on with many examples of Chinese culture that have shocked and surprised me, but I won’t. My in-laws also have many positive characteristics, so I try to understand my Chinese in-laws as best I can. They are my wife’s parents, and for that reason alone, I will love them, show respect to them (most of the time, at least), and make the best of everything.
    My wife and I have been married now for 9 years. My in-laws still come to visit our home in America. (By the way, a “visit” lasts for 6 months.) Despite that, we are very happy and love our life together.
    When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Best wishes to you!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you so much Willian for sharing your experience of your Chinese in-laws. You are right, whats yours is also theirs, a home is always a home for all the family members. I have to say I’m actually pretty lucky to have a mother-in-law who cares about me and treats me very well.

    Happy Chinese New Year!

  • PJ

    hi there, I love your post. I am a Malaysian Chinese living in Australia. After living overseas for ten years, i struggle with my own culture when i go back home. The truth is Chinese mom always think they are definitely better and superior in cooking, cleaning and everything else than their daughter/daughter in law. My mom never compliment my cooking even though sometimes i done much better than her. Forget about privacy !!! They believe they have the right to know everything because she is the MOTHER and cannot understand why do we need to hide anything from her !!!! I am thinking of starting my own blog writing all the crazy things of my chinese culture too.

  • Leo

    this is a problem for all of young couples in China, this is not about race or region difference, is a really big problem of traditional vs modernization.

    I still argue with my mon a lot about things she did to show how much she loves me but actually makes me mad, and she feel so sad that I didnt show a sign of appreciation for her doing, and she callls a unfilialson.

    Nowdays, the younger generation chinese people are start to value their privacy more and more, but in old time in China there are no such thing, not people dont want privacy, just they can not say they want it, as the old chinese moral system only ask people to obey the elders, as also human has a peeking nature, so when people get old, they have this power in hand so they just abuse the power, and for thousands of years in China, generation after generation people all been treated like this, some people think is right, some people just have this psychological inversion for life so when they become elder in the family they could taste the power too, and thx to USA, our parents are that last generation been passed on this habit, so dont be too mind, what you have faced is really nothing compare to a normal chinese girl would have encountered.

    A normal chinese family nowdays have to face this big problem everyday, how to balance the relationship for wife and mon is one of the biggest reason to causing headache, you probably heard chinese women like to ask their husband or sons one really bad question,’when me and your wife(mon) fall into water,who you save first.’ and they ask this when the other party at present. And I always dont understand why they never think wife will become mother in the future, and mother was a young wife b4, and now from my understand, they dont care about whether this question have a logically good answer, for them, answer can only been theirselves, no matter which role they are playing.

    Instead of ’I have taste enough hardship so let the younger ones have a better life‘ they prefered ’I will let you young ones taste what I have taste so you can all understand and respect me’

    this is sad and true.

  • Alice

    Reading your blog, I am secretly so glad that so many foreigners in China are not enjoying it. Because I am living in the UK now as a Chinese, sometimes, no matter what I do, they can always get me wrong, and sometime, I don’t need to do anything, people can give me horrible judgment and attitude easily.(by they way, I have no bad teeth and smell, and the strangers who did mean things to me often just met me for a second before I can talk or do anything) Often I would be confused, thinking what should I do to react, and wonder why I am still staying. With so many friends and my degree everything, I can in fact do much more in China. But I would always remind myself I want the challenge and want to keep learning and understanding through challenging experiences. So time to get over these and do more things. Everyone is not easy. Although that doesn’t mean everything they do is OK, but as long as it is not too much, no need to give too much of your precious attention on these shit.

    Another thing we people experiencing another culture should always remember is there is bad and good everywhere. With such a crowded nation, bad things show up more often in China than elsewhere. About the things you pick on Chinese people, I can only say, if you can only see smelly Chinese with horrible teeth and dreadful manner in your life everywhere, dude, that really tells something about yourself. Because there is for sure many Chinese people who are not like that. So shut up and work harder.

    Jack Reply:

    Alice, I can understand your hardship – I have went through that myself. My family immigrated to New Zealand 25 years ago, and believe me, I have been judged unfairly, ignored, and even punched simply because of my race. I am from Taiwan myself and not many people back then knows where even Taiwan is, and when they do know is when Taiwan made headline for the drift netting Taiwanese fishing boats were using back then that cause environmental damage… or when Taiwanese were caught buying Rhino horns for Chinese medicine. The list goes on.

    Lately, it is CHINESE who are behaving badly either in the news or just locally in public (tourists) that is causing the racist sentiment that affects me as locals view EVERY asian as Chinese.

    What I can say is, work on yourself – and if you can – “correct” other chinese or tell them what their behavior is UNACCEPTABLE. This is what I read in another blog Sinobserver:

    “One explanation I realize that Chinese people are not as explicitly demanding of others as westerners. What I mean is that they don’t seem to outwardly express discontent with others over bad behavior as westerners when confronted with uncivilized/harmful/dangerous/inconsiderate behavior.

    I think people underestimate how much social signaling (showing
    discontent/censure/resentment through language or even body language)
    can impact other’s behavior in positive ways. Public raise for good
    behavior also impacts people’s behavior. The self restraint, discipline
    and regard for others that it takes to build a civilized modern society
    requires lots of social communication both explicit and implicit in
    cultivating those traits which Chinese society and parents do not
    currently instill in their children. Modern Chinese culture may eschew
    public condemnation for fear that the one being condemned will lose
    face. Chinese people of course complain all the time and argue but they
    don’t usually confront others directly with their behavior no matter how
    atrocious that behavior is. So vices grow in a dark environment
    without proper light of social signalling from peers. What Chinese
    people take to be “civility” in not condemning these
    kinds of behavior is actually a superficial civility if one can even
    call it that. It is born of cowardliness, laziness and apathy, a kind of
    moral meekness/weakness masking as a virtue.

    There is a famous sociological theory
    that what produced the European enlightenment of the last 200-300 years
    is precisely the increase of social signalling against uncivilized
    behavior (it started with such behavior as would be better qualified
    under simply “bad manners”) starting with the urbanization of Europe.
    Europe saw a dramatic decrease in violent crime following (though you
    can make a good argument that what they improved on in internal civility
    they more than made up in their brutality against non Europeans). Of
    course, this is rather an educated speculation (it is sociology after
    all) as this is just a correlation relationship and may not suggest a
    true causal one. But one hopes that China is currently in such a phase
    too but hopefully it won’t take another 200 years to bare the same

  • Guest

    I won’t even date a Chinese national unless both his parents are dead. Chinese parents don’t know how to let go and many demand “respect” (servanthood) from daughter in laws.

  • Jean Bruno Martin

    i found your article while looking for feedback after my Chinese MIL came here and drove me crazy fornone month !
    we just had a baby and it seems to be a bigger deal to her than it is to is, she over-does everuthing.

    She is very nice and means well, but at the beggnnng i had to be a littlz firm and set the limits. At first she was disoriented because sje has one way doing things but eventually i tried to show her why what i do made sense when appropriate and let go some stuff.

    I don’t believe in the let it gp approach, you cannot accept everything at some point it will drive you mad. The two main problems i encoutered as a european were the absence of boundaries, and, to be crude, lack of education. By that i dont mean she was impolite but rather she ignores basic hugiene and health rules. She is in favy extremely clean but she can also ruin your fryîg pans in two days, let vegetables sit on the floor and gatjer dust or try piercing the baby bottle with a needle which isnt sterelised because she thinks the milk goes down too slow.

    From the start i tried shoIng her i knew what i was doing and i stead of confronting her i went for a cooperative approach. Don’t be scared to say no at least my MIL isnt stupid she knows i know a lot of stuff and will listen when i say something isnt right, but you need to exlain it.

    We finally managed to find our “groove”. My wife doesnt dare to criticise her or make anny comments because of chinese filial piety. In some cases she was wrong. I told her to explain to her mom early how to behave at the dinner table and she refused, which later she regretted because i explained it and she was very receptive. No one wants to look bad ik a foreign country because of their manners, when i’m in china i try to adpat as well even if eating from tue same plate as everyone else seems very unsanitary to me.

    I was also mad because she was handwashing my clothes everyday and ruined my shirts by hanging it Impropeely and rolling it. I told her to ise the washing machine which was even worse because she started using it three times a day, which of course costs a lot of money.

    The thing that really drove me mad was the Way she syarted running to the bbu’s room everytime she Was crying. This i can’t accept, it’s my child and i dont Want anyone interfering or taking initiatives especially since mbwife and i saw the disaster that result in chinese grandparents overcaring. We noticed tye children of our friends and family were spiled brats, had zero social skills and where whinnîg all the time.

    We decided to adopt a more “cool” approach, be here when the baby needs but let her be orterwise. Eventually she realised i was really good at caring the baby and she pulled back a little.

    Next time she comes i’ll take her on a trip to avoid her being focalises on tje kitchen and the housework. Hopefully she’ll appreciate being taken care of rather than spending 15 hours a day doing housework that is’t really necessarry just because she doesnt really know how to do any different.

    In conclusion, i told my wife we’re the parents now, and we should run the house. No need to get into arguments, just find à alternative way.

  • Michael

    This could be just the beginning. I can tell you from experience she probably does not care what you think. Just be glad she does not live there, but don’t be surprised when she insists on moving in when you have your first child. Then she will want to raise the child and have more of a bond with the child than you. This is very common in Chinese Culture. Thanks for the entertaining read. I was at this stage once before kids and obviously your husband has not warned you about what will come next. Good Luck! Chinese mother in laws can turn your life into a living hell. They want to be the head of the family. Sometime she might ask to control your finances once children are on the way. There are many blogs about this from Americans and Chinese on Chinese blogs. My wife is Chinese and her parents wanted to come when to the US when we had our first child. Everything was bearable (like now for you) until our daughter arrived. I did not get to hold my own daughter for the first 10 days. Most Chinese guys are fine with this. I was not. We had to send them packing eventually. Her mom called her every Chinese cuss word there is and she has not talked to her mom for almost a year since they left. If this occurs, I hope your husband is willing to dis-regard Chinese Culture like my wife did.

  • Polly


    I won’t date Chinese guys for the same reason my brother won’t date Chinese girls – we grew up back when the only Asian people around were family so it would feel too much like incest. However, if any of my white friends were to ask my opinion about dating Chinese guys, my advice is, date only orphans!

    You might think your Chinese mother-in-law loves you like a new daughter, but she will not hesitate to kill you if she thinks it would be best for her children, like in that horror movie, “Maid”.

    You need to move further away from her, my brother has to move to a completely different town to get away from our parent’s meddling and their jokes about moving in with him – NOPE.

    Oh, as the daughter, I got the daughter-neglect until it was clear that my brother would NEVER let them live with him when he gets married, then they try to make me come back. NOPE.

    Amber Reply:

    yes, precisely! or, you, as the foreign outsider, will be the “maid”–set the boundaries high from day one of your relationship with a chinese MIL, don’t try too hard to please as there is no pleasing!

  • Therio Cassius

    Ah this is all Chinese mothers, in Chinese culture due to a number of factors including Confucianism the family sticks together much more than perhaps what you’re used to, for example I’m 17 and I’m trying to be more independent and do things on my own but my Mum insists on doing things and buying more things for me out of the blue even though I have a part time job and can earn a bit of money to save up and she still tries to buy things for me even things that I don’t need, though I’m grateful I generally dislike this as she herself doesn’t earn much, though luckily she let’s me generally run my own life like cooking and washing to me so that’s good however she can be a monster about education and outside activities which she decides for me a lot of the time, when I was younger she was very overbearing and strict to the point where she would hit me for being even slightly bent when I stood up or proclaiming I didn’t want to be a doctor, the problem is that Chinese Mothers try too hard to be more selfless than have a balance everything is about the household and children and so everything is orientated around that, I feel like in the future when I’m older and married like yourself that she may also become the housemaid and child carer even if I don’t want her to, she’s already even though I’m 17, saying things like when you have kids son I’ll come over and teach them Chinese and what not even though I honestly don’t want that, she even said she would take them to China with her, I’m scared to death and honestly this has raised my concerns even more, I don’t want to ruin my relationship with my Mum she is lovely but this has given me more food for thought, do I risk alienating my family and outcasting myself from Chinese culture for not doing what other Chinese children do when they get married or do I give in and just let her do it and not risk damaging my relationship any more since she sees me as a failure anyways.

    But anyways sorry for rambling, I’m gonna go anonymous for this since I don’t want anyone who I know to come across this.

  • P

    My Chinese in-laws moved to Canada from Singapore. Now, I do feel that if people are living in China (as non-Chinese) and marry a Chinese local that you need to bend to the culture. However, sadly, it seems when Chinese come to North America they become “colonialists” just as the Europeans before them did. REMINDER to the Chinese in North America: the land in North America actually belongs to the Indigenous of North America. Lately, the Chinese are acting as badly as the Europeans did. Anyway, my in-laws were rich, and apparently Christian. But it has been over 15+ years of pure hell. You’ll never meet more entitled, nasty people in your whole life. Here’s a current battle: my family and I, we TRIED. One Christmas we made a whole lavish Christmas dinner (organic turkey, organic mashed potatoes, home made baking, the works) and we brought it over to my in-laws’ place. My elderly grandmother even helped with this. We really wanted my in-laws to feel welcome and at home in Canada. We barely got a word of thanks for this effort. But we were stupid, and we wanted to try. Years have gone by and I’ve pretty much had to host every Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. Keep in mind this is supposed to be a Christian family. Well, one year I bought a HUGE turkey for Canadian Thanksgiving. It was an organic turkey and cost like $100. I roasted it ahead of time, carved it. Then, when the in-laws came the next day I warmed it up and served it. Well, I have yet to hear the end of the this to this very day. MIL and SIL say I “didn’t roll out the red carpet” because I served “carved” turkey. They wanted that stupid bird presented Martha Stewart style! At that time I had two little children and was very busy, but I was still supposed to roll out the red carpet. They actually said that. These hypcocritical nasty ladies, who have NOT ONCE hosted a Christmas, a Thanksgiving, or an Easter, actually have the nerve to criticize hospitality. Also, my own MIL has served the most shocking food imaginable at her own home–she has for real served leftovers from restaurants! I have also eaten at the most filthy Chinese restaurants with her. AND yet, to expect and to say out loud “roll out the red carpet” when they come over. If you tell them they’ve hurt your feelings, they couldn’t care less. They enjoy hurting your feelings. My family was very foolish and silly to try so hard. I think in trying so hard in the first few years they just began to see us as their servants. I believe Canada has made a big mistake just inviting wealthy Chinese over–they have to “buy” their citizenship and this creates incredible entitlement. I also have faced MANY comments and direct quote on how they “HATE” Canada. I was supposed to absorb all their resentment and anger in leaving Singapore. Chinese culture is an ancient and an imperial one. You get the real sense that husband’s extended Chinese family REALLY feel they are superior to other people. They have no interest in the history of North America. You can see across North America huge cities that are basically Chinese cities. Be very careful marrying into a Chinese family. They also love to shun people. This is not the life I had envisioned for my children or for myself. I am only thankful my husband is a decent person. (Oh, during my pregnancy with my second child it was very difficult and i was on bed rest. We begged Chinese MIL to come and help out with my older child. My own mother was coming every day and getting tired. Chinese MIL REFUSED to come, she is wealthy and retired, but she claimed to be “too busy.”)